Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 Circuit Assembly - Day One

So I finally had a chance to attend a circuit assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses (the circuit in question is Pennsylvania Circuit 5; the convention was only 5B, since the assembly hall can't handle the entire circuit at once - 5A had their assembly the previous weekend). Having packed my things the night before, I'd hoped to wake up at, say, 6:00 or 6:20 AM. Well, as it turns out, I slept in a bit, and so I rushed around in a frenzy getting ready and then raced out the door and through the wintery cold to the college's chapel, where I sought refuge in the warmth. After maybe ten or fifteen minutes, a minivan pulled up out front containing Shem (driving), Uriah, and Atarah and Zibiah. I got in, and we were off on the fifteen-minute journey to the assembly hall.

When we arrived, it turned out that only essential personnel were allowed in the building before 8:00 AM, and so Zibiah and I had to return to the minivan to wait; Uriah, Shem, and Atarah would all be working in the coatroom the entire time. Uriah later explained that the rationale is to make sure that nobody gets a totally unfair advantage in saving seats, though in weather like today's, I'm not sure that saving seats is the worse of two evils. I spent the time reading, naturally - I'm working through Let God Be True, a JW study book originally published in 1946 but revised in 1952, which edition I have - until we were at last allowed in. Zibiah and I took over a section of seating to the far left of the auditorium-type room, and needless to say I spent some time milling around for a bit before returning to some reading. I had a full 100 minutes before the assembly activities would actually begin.

During that time, I first got to meet a few people while Uriah was at our seating area. (This would happen a fair bit, since I was the only male there without a suit, or at least a button-down shirt and possibly a tie; the best clothes I had for the weekend still had me a tad underdressed.) First were "Ze'ev" and his wife. His wife didn't stay long, but Ze'ev, Uriah, and I had some interesting conversations. Ze'ev is a pioneer, meaning that he devotes 70 hours each week to 'publishing' (essentially, JW evangelism), as well as a Theocratic Ministry School overseer, so I got to hear a bit about what being a TMS overseer involves. Essentially, Theocratic Ministry School, which is a training program for Jehovah's Witnesses to give talks and whatnot, involves about six of them each week delivering talks that they've been assigned, and then the overseer has to give comments and counsel on each. But, in case somebody misses, the overseer also has to be prepared to give all six of the talks, if necessary! So, naturally, it requires quite a bit of preparation. Somewhere in here, he also found an opportunity to cite Isaiah 54:13 ("And all your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant"). Ze'ev and Uriah (who had also been a TMS overseer at his own congregation for a time) had both been Jehovah's Witnesses since 1997. They discussed how long it takes their congregations to cover the territory they need to (Ze'ev's does it twice every 14 months, but Uriah's covers our territory once every 13 months, since there are fewer pioneers in the area), and Ze'ev also talked to me for a bit about how much he loves the book Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (the "Proclaimers book", for short), which he's in the process of studying for the first time now, and which I've already read. Uriah told Ze'ev how he read the Proclaimers book when he was still a Methodist in order to try to find things wrong with Jehovah's Witness history.

After I met a couple others, Uriah introduced me to an older Jehovah's Witness near the back of the auditorium. As it turns out, this fellow, 'Beriah', was the JW who had done the Bible study with Uriah before Uriah's conversion. That was an interesting meeting; Beriah was quite a nice, friendly fellow. I met a couple other people while Uriah took me on a tour of the assembly hall, after which I returned to my seat for more reading time. After some of that, I got to meet a couple of JWs closer to my age, including a 25-year-old guy I'll call 'Almog'. Almog asked me the standard set of questions. First, it's always what I do, and I answer that I'm a college student. Sometimes, they then ask where, so I answer, and invariably I'll be asked what I study there. When I say that I'm a student of religion and philosophy, they'll always say that it sounds fascinating, and then they'll usually ask me something like how I find it compares with what I learn from Jehovah's Witnesses, etc., etc. Anyway, Almog asked what truth I'd come away with so far in my Bible study with Uriah. The question sort of caught me by surprise and froze my brain for a moment, particularly since I wanted to give an answer that would be both true and inoffensive, so I said something to the effect of, "That there's one true God, Jehovah, and that salvation comes only through the sacrifice of Christ." This answer met with approval.

Eventually, it finally came time for things to get started, and I learned that the theme of this weekend's circuit assembly would be "Safeguard Your Spirituality". The songs would all be from the new songbook announced last year at the district convention, called Songs to Jehovah. Needless to say, I didn't have one, but a woman two rows back let me borrow a copy for the day. The first song was #53, "Working Together in Unity", based on Ephesians 4:3 ("Earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of spirit in the uniting bond of peace"), and was followed by a prayer.

The first talk, "Why Our Spirituality is Precious", was delivered by 'Ezbon', the district overseer, who was being reassigned following this assembly; they have periodic reassignment every three years, I believe. Ezbon started off by painting a mental image of walking a dog on a leash at the side of a mountain lake while a beautiful sunset is happening. The dog won't jerk back to watch the sunset, because the animal world isn't impressed by creation; animals can't appreciate the beauty of God's handiwork like we can. This capacity for spirituality is the key distinction between us and mere animals, although some humans dismiss spiritual things (and thereby, the implication seemed to go, diminish the distinction between themselves and animals). After citing Matthew 5:3 ("Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them"), he commented that "happiness is contingent on being a spiritual person", and after quoting from the definition of "spiritual" he found in Webster's Dictionary, he talked about some ideas of spirituality found in other religions. For Protestants, he said, spirituality can be found in attending church, religious rallies and revivals, sometimes being "born again", and for some, speaking in tongues. For Catholics, the mass is spiritual. For Buddhists, meditation is spiritual, and for Hindus, "release from rebirth through self-denial" is spiritual. He then brought up the old practice of some (King Louis IX of France, Thomas More, and Thomas Becket were the ones he mentioned) who wore 'hair-shirts' in order to "subdue the unruly flesh".

After explaining that spiritism/spiritualism is not spirituality, he cited 1 Corinthians 2:13 ("These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by [the] spirit, as we combine spiritual [matters] with spiritual [words]"), saying that these are spiritual matters for the spiritual man. On the next verse ("But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know [them], for they are examined spiritually"), he commented that the "physical man is a poor judge; he only looks at spiritual things". Ezbon then cited verses 15-16 ("However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man. For 'who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, that he may instruct him?' But we do have the mind of Christ"), as well as Romans 15:5 ("Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant YOU to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had"), before remarking that a spiritual person thinks and walks like Jesus. After posing the query of how to do so, he offered four points. The first was to read the Gospels, which would allow us to get to know Jesus' way of thinking; and "when we have his thinking or the mind of Christ", this will allow us to conform ourselves to his image. The second point was to be guided by God's spirit, which is the transforming power that will put us in a state of "resembling Christ Jesus". The third point was that "true spirituality and prayer go hand-in-hand", and Ezbon cited Matthew 26:36-44 (the disciples failing to stay awake in Gethsemane) and Luke 22:44 ("But getting into an agony he continued praying more earnestly; and his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground"). The fourth point was to have a "meaningful share in the preaching work". Ezbon made the point that healing is less important than preaching the Father's name. Summarizing, he said that we should read the Bible daily, have the fruit of the spirit, be men and women of prayer, and associate with those who preach God's word.

Citing Romans 8:5 ("For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit"), one of the key passages for the convention, he asked why there's so much emphasis on spirituality, and to answer that he turned to the other key passage, Jude 17-19 ("As for YOU, beloved ones, call to mind the sayings that have been previously spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how they used to say to YOU: 'In the last time there will be ridiculers, proceeding according to their own desires for ungodly things.' These are the ones that make separations, animalistic [men], not having spirituality") and then Romans 8:6 ("For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace"). On the first, he talked about the "perverse, animalistic attitudes" that arise in the absence of true spirituality, and he made the peculiar comment that this can happen even within the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses; the second he glossed with the remark that peace and good conscience are to be found in spirituality. After citing Matthew 5:3 yet again, he spoke of the blessings of having the mind of Christ. He talked about the diversity of Jehovah's people, noting (among other things) that some are highly educated and some are illiterate. (I'm curious how Ezbon understands "highly educated".) He also said that they are fed by Jehovah and his word, since "the slave class provides a delightful menu". Posing a question to the audience, he asked, "Are we at all of the meetings?" He then stressed that there are ten meetings that it is possible to attend, and said that the events in total cover the five regular meetings each week, as well as circuit assemblies, special days, district conventions, service meetings, and the memorial service. Stressing the joy of associating with one another, the tenor of his statement seemed to carry the implication that it's imperative to attend every single meeting possible. Among other blessings, he then mentioned the "forgiveness of sins through the ransom sacrifice" as well as freedom from "Babylon the Great"; at this point, he expressed an eagerness for Babylon the Great (i.e., 'Christendom' as well as Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) to be utterly destroyed by God. The final blessing mentioned was that there are "deep" and "clear" JW publications. This roughly marked the end of his talk, though as is customary he gave a preview of the whole program (after explaining why song numbers weren't marked in the program bulletin; the reason, of course, was the new songbook), and finally cited Psalm 37:28 ("For Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones. To time indefinite they will certainly be guarded; but as for the offspring of the wicked ones, they will indeed by cut off") to the effect of safeguarding one's spirituality.

At this time, the Theocratic Ministry School began. Several Witnesses took their turn in doing... things. The first part was "Bible highlights", covering three chapters from Judges. The Jehovah's Witness delivering it first began with Judges 5:1 ("And on that day Deborah along with Barak the son of Abinoam broke out in song, saying"). He explained that this was a victory song of Israel over Canaan. He said that these songs were recorded for our benefit, and that we should take advantage of the opportunity to sing to Jehovah. Since the Governing Body had personally auditioned each new song, the new songbook truly constitutes "spiritual food", a term that appears to confer a quasi-inspired status upon whatever it describes. The next verse he discussed in a bit of depth, Judges 7:17 ("And he went on to say to them: 'YOU should learn from watching me, and that is how YOU should do. And when I am come to the edge of the camp, it must also occur that just as I shall do, so YOU will do'"), was the example of Gideon teaching an inexperienced army. The speaker made the comparison of these troops to modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses, who have "many new and inexperienced ones within the organization". More experienced Witnesses are to help them prepare an effective message for the territory. When introducing them to door-to-door publishing work, the more experienced JW should take the first few doors to give an example to follow and then let them try, and also never forget to offer positive reinforcement.

This is where a section of the audience, drawn from the speaking Witness's own congregation, gave their audience comments on the passage. From the sounds of their voices, they appeared to be reading. On 7:22, one person remarked to "trust in Jehovah for success". After somebody referenced 6:15, another went to 5:31 for the lesson that this was a prophetic battle pointing forward to Armageddon. Another used 5:8, urging everyone to be faithful to God's promise. Next was 6:12, with the lesson that Jehovah has confidence in us. The next person cited 7:3 and 7:7; the person discussed the ratios involved in a way that made painfully obvious that this was no extemporaneous comment, and then said that Jehovah delivers his people from their enemies. After that was 6:25, wherein we are not asked for "blind faith in some obscure deity", because Jehovah's Witnesses know the God whom they worship. The next person cited 7:5 as well as 1 Peter 5:8, and the person after that went to 5:20 to discuss help from God. After somebody went to 5:7, the next person used 6:37 to talk about seeking certainty of Jehovah's will through study of the Scriptures. The final example was 6:25-27, and the commenter said that discretion was important and that no needless offense should be given in the course of the ministry. This concluded the Bible highlights section, and a panel of overseers commented that the brief, prepared comments were quite effective. After this came a Bible reading by one Brother Jones of Judges 7:1-11; the overseer commented that the reading was accurate with a good pace, and that good gestures were used while emphasizing the right words.

Next in the Theocratic Ministry School, two female Witnesses did a scene portraying a section of Bible study in which one helps the other, playing an investigator, to see the proper (i.e., JW) interpretation of the harlot in Revelation. After reading Revelation 17:1 ("And one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying: 'Come, I will show you the judgment upon the great harlot who sits on many waters'"), they turned to questions 17 and 18 in the book and then looked over the Scriptures again, looking also at page 219 of the appendix. When the investigator just didn't see the 'obvious' truth of the JW way of reading the text, they looked at the broader context of Revelation 17:1-2 and 5, which speaks of a symbolic woman who is judged by Jehovah. Turning to verse 18 ("And the woman whom you saw means the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth"), the Witness explained that she is an organization, or empire. The three global empires of Satan's dominion are the religious, political, and commercial empires, and so Revelation 17:2 ("With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication") shows that Babylon the Great must be the sum total of false religion. How did she get there? Well, this passage shows that her fornication consists in alliances with the political empire; but this implies distinction, and so Babylon is not the political empire. But Revelation 18:15 ("The traveling merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of [their] fear of her torment and will weep and mourn") shows that the merchants mourn for her; but, as they are the commercial empire, Babylon is not that either. Hence, by a process of elimination, she is the "empire of false religion", as can be seen also in Revelation 18:23 ("And no light of a lamp will ever shine in you again, and no voice of a bridegroom and of a bride will ever be heard in you again; because your traveling merchants were the top-ranking men of the earth, for by your spiritistic practice all the nations were misled"). ...Does anybody out there find that line of argument convincing? Because I sure don't, and my presentation is more logically rigorous than it was in the actual scene. The 'investigator', however, saw the 'obvious' truth of it at last, and they were able to move onward. Just once, I'd like to see them show a skit in which the investigator gives real resistance to the teaching and poses counterarguments. At any rate, the overseers said that the scene was very well done, with a relaxed naturalness (which they said is a "quality new in our textbook") and a great use of questions and conversational ability. The overseer commended the sisters on good pace and timing as well as on correct application of Scripture (ha!).

The last portion of the Theocratic Ministry School was a presentation by one Br. Posey from pp. 170-171 of the book Reasoning from the Scriptures. He spoke of how puzzle pieces are hard to put together without some sort of instruction, and then asked, "Does anyone get out of the Bible hell?" Turning to the more fundamental question of "What is hell?", he distinguished between Sheol/Hades, which is the common, unconscious grave of all mankind, and Gehenna, the lake of fire that is eternal destruction and offers no hope. Citing first Acts 2:27, 31 ("Because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption [...] He saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Hades nor did his flesh see corruption"), the example of Jesus, Br. Posey said that there was no corruption of flesh in the grave for him; and, turning then to Revelation 20:13-14 ("And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Hades were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire"), he said that Hades is clearly not permanent, since the grave and death are cast into the lake of fire, but all in Jehovah's memory shall be brought back to life. (While offering certain correctives to a naive traditional view, this is no threat to a more nuanced, correct view of what the Bible says about the state of the dead and the afterlife.) The overseers had plenty of comments to the effect that Br. Posey had used a clear definition, good logic, and plenty of research in other Watchtower publications. (When a Jehovah's Witness says "research", they always mean seeing what else the Society publications have said on the subject; the notion of going to other sources - like, say, biblical scholarship or serious theology - is virtually unthinkable.) There was also praise for good audience contact and attention to accuracy. The overseer made a general comment that it's good to be wary of news reports so as not to disseminate unofficial information, which could be misleading and lead to a loss of credibility. Finally, we sang song #32, "Be Steadfast, Unmovable!", based on 1 Corinthians 15:58 ("Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that YOUR labor is not in vain in connection with [the] Lord") and then heard the standard announcements.

The Theocratic Ministry School being at last concluded, Br. Rice delivered a talk called "How Pioneering Enhances Spirituality". Yes, that's right; another opportunity for the leadership to push everyone to become workaholics in the cause of God. He started off by talking about the importance of sunlight for one's well-being, and then said that pioneering has the same effect on one's spiritual well-being. Happiness comes to others through the good news that Jehovah's Witnesses share, after all. Br. Rice did concede that the "extent we share in the ministry will vary from person to person", but "today, lives are at stake". So, "how are you doing? Only you can answer that." He then launched into four blessings of pioneering. First, an increase in involvement in the field ministry will "rivet our attention on spiritual thoughts". The bulk of a pioneer's thoughts are focused on Jehovah, he said, since we must prepare carefully our presentation and question for each house. (Is that generally true, that most of a pioneer's thoughts are spiritual? I rather doubt it.) Second, pioneers are involved in a "spiritual rescue and search mission". Witnesses value people's lives, and so just as many are becoming involved in efforts in Haiti, so too Jehovah's Witnesses seek to call people from the broad road that leads to destruction to the narrow road that leads to life. The third blessing is schooling, since pioneers can attend the Pioneer Service School and the annual meeting of pioneers, to say nothing of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. The fourth blessing is that pioneering allows one to "imitate the greatest missionary, Jesus Christ", who was always willing to take up another assignment from his Father. Likewise, a pioneer is willing to do anything to accomplish his ministry. All of these blessings produce many benefits to many people. After a few interviews with some pioneers in attendance, Br. Rice said that these are times of great stress, particularly economic, so what's the sensible course to take? He urged that "it is practical" to "make ministry our priority", even though the devil will continue to bring economic hardship upon Jehovah's Witnesses in order to dissuade them. However, Matthew 6:33 ("Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added to YOU") outlines the proper course of action.

At this time, Beriah took the stage to deliver the dedication talk to the baptismal candidates. (There would be 14 baptisms today, just as the previous assembly had seven, coming to a total of 21 baptisms for the circuit.) He started out by describing it as a serious but joyful day for them and then cited 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ("I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making [it] grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes [it] grow"), saying that "Jehovah has been responsible for the growth of truth within you". Baptism isn't the end of the work; the candidates must keep on the course of developing a "special relationship with Jehovah", and their career will now be as an "ordained minister of his". Jehovah is happy with their decision, but Satan is furious. First Peter 5:8-9 ("Keep YOUR senses, be watchful. YOUR adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour [someone]. But take YOUR stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of YOUR brothers in the world") shows that it is sensible to carry something to protect oneself from Satan, who wants to "devour your spirituality and take you back into his system of things"--so, keep your senses, or as the Kingdom Interlinear says, "be you sober, stay you awake". Be vigilant and put on the "complete suit of armor of God" against the "craft acts of the devil" (cf. Ephesians 6:11). Returning to 1 Peter 1:1 ("Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to the ones chosen"), Beriah said that it was addressed to "baptized servants of Jehovah", and that the candidates, too, must remain alert; as verse 13 ("Hence brace up YOUR minds for activity, keep YOUR sense completely; set YOUR hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to YOU at the revelation of Jesus Christ") says, we must brace our minds for activity.

At this point came the familiar meditation on the five senses, which I remember from the district convention. First was hearing, and Beriah cited Deuteronomy 5:1 ("And Moses proceeded to call all Israel and to say to them: 'Hear, O Israel, the regulations and the judicial decisions that I am speaking in YOUR ears today, and YOU must learn them and be careful to do them'"), talking about the "method of learning the truth". One must learn to be obedient to Jehovah, to Jesus, and to the 'faithful and discreet slave', which is God's channel of communication to us. The candidates should not, however, listen to false teachings, degrading music, or unclean humor - in other words, most modern entertainment. As for sight, we should fix ourselves on the Bible (Psalm 1:1-2 - "Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones, and in the way of sinners has not stood, and in the seat of ridiculers has not sat. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night") and "put yourselves in there" when it comes to Isaiah 65. He also cited Psalm 101:3 ("I shall not set in front of my eyes any good-for-nothing thing. The doing of those who fall away I have hated; it does not cling to me") and said to read the Bible daily and turn our eyes away from bad. When it comes to smell, he reminisced for a bit about his mother's apple pie and then said that, unlike a hot pie fresh from the oven, there's no need to wait when it comes to the "delightful odor of the truth", which "should make us stop and appreciate what it is". He stressed the importance of spreading the good news. Also, since our prayers are like incense to Jehovah, we should pray without ceasing. The fourth sense was taste, and of course there was a reference to Psalm 34:8 ("Taste and see that Jehovah is good, O YOU people; happy is the able-bodied man that takes refuge in him"). Beriah urged the candidates to learn about Jehovah. Jesus said that doing Jehovah's will was like food for him, and this subordination of hunger to ministry is the model for all Witnesses. "This is the food for life. We want to share it with as many as we can." The fifth sense, of course, was touch. "Don't touch the unclean things in this world," Beriah counseled, but rather keep a grip on the word of life (cf. Philippians 2:16 - "Keeping a tight grip on the word of life, that I may have cause for exultation in Christ's day, that I did not run in vain or work hard in vain"). "Use the Scriptures for your own benefit and to teach others as well." One must continue to be vigilant after baptism; after all, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness followed his baptism. Resist Satan's deception, because some even fall away from the truth shortly after baptism. Beriah went to 1 Peter 1:13-16 ("Hence brace up YOUR minds for activity, keep YOUR senses completely; set YOUR hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to YOU at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires YOU formerly had in YOUR ignorance, but, in accord with the Holy One who called YOU, do YOU also become holy yourselves in all [YOUR] conduct, because it is written: 'YOU must be holy, because I am holy'") and said that we must be holy because Jehovah is holy and perfectly clean. "We work at it", but "it's a pleasant work". "Don't trust in your own abilities." At this time, Beriah had the baptismal candidates stand and answer two questions. The first was whether, on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they have repented from sin and dedicated themselves to do God's will. The second was whether they understand that this baptism and dedication will identify them as Jehovah's Witnesses in association with Jehovah's organization. Naturally, they all answered yes to both, so after a prayer and song #26, "Oh, Walk with God!", based on Micah 6:8 ("He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?"), all 1,184 people in attendance (minus the candidates) remained standing as the fourteen candidates filed out.

The baptisms were at the same time as lunch, which I ate with Zibiah, Ham, and Japheth, among some others. After I finished eating, I milled around for a while. First I got to catch up with Mephibosheth and meet his wife and sister; I also eventually got introduced to Noam, another Jehovah's Witness who will recur in the narrative. At 1:30 PM, we reassembled for song #47, "Declare the Good News", based on Revelation 14:6-7 ("And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying in a loud voice: 'FEAR God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters'"). After that came a nebulous event titled "experiences" in the bulletin. One Br. Maltry urged the audience to "search for people everywhere", particularly those "deserving ones" who will listen to their message, and he spoke of "informal witnessing" as a supplement to the field work. To illustrate, he did interviews with two female Witnesses. The first, a sixteen-year-old girl, talked about how she brought her copy of What Does the Bible Really Teach? to class at her vocational school and placed it on her desk, and then answered plenty of questions that people asked her. A number of classmates were intrigued to learn more. The other sister has a family that considered religion as taboo for conversation, but when her sister-in-law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she visited her and brought up the subject, citing Genesis 1:1 ("In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth"), Job 34:10 ("Therefore, YOU men of heart, listen to me. Far be it from the [true] God to act wickedly, and the Almighty to act unjustly!"), and the following paragraph from the "Bible Teach book":
In the meantime, how does Gd feel about what is going on in the world and in your life? Well, the Bible teaches that God is "a lover of justice." (Psalm 37:28) So he cares deeply about what is right and what is wrong. He hates all kinds of injustice. The Bible says that God "felt hurt at his heart" when badness filled the world in times past. (Genesis 6:5, 6) God has not changed. (Malachi 3:6) He still hates to see the suffering that is taking place worldwide. And God hates to see people suffer. "He cares for you," the Bible says.--1 Peter 5:7. (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 11)
There was also an interview with a male Witness who invited his repairman to the memorial service; and as it turned out, the repairman had once studied with Jehovah's Witnesses but had let it go. When he went to the memorial service, he was very warmly embraced, and so resumed the study and was rapidly baptized.

After a reference to Haggai 2:11 ("This is what Jehovah of armies has said: 'Ask, please, the priests as to [the] law'"), it came time for the day's symposium, titled "Beware of Dangers to Your Spirituality". The first talk in the symposium, delivered by Br. Strong, was called "Why Be On the Alert?" Br. Strong started with the imagery of a soldier slacking off and relaxing; this lack of vigilance can lose lives in a time of war. We today are at war with an invisible foe, Satan, and hence must remain perpetually on the alert. He cited 1 Corinthians 2:16, contrasting the "physical man" and the "spiritual man", the latter of whom has acquired the mind of Christ. Thanks to God's Word, he said, we aren't blind to Satan's designs: various dangers like materialism, doubts, time-wasters, and ungodly entertainment. He also, curiously enough, took the time to warn the audience not to text one another with sexually "provocative information". He then offered five benefits of living a spiritual life. The first is "refreshment in Kingdom service", and he cited Matthew 11:29-30 ("Take my yoke upon YOU and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and YOU will find refreshment for YOUR souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light"), pointing out that this is an exchange of a heavy load for a lighter load, not an addition to our pre-existing load. We now have "good news of good things to come". The second benefit is "not toiling for uncertain riches", as true Christians don't have to worry about such things. The third benefit is "being content with what we have", and thus being able to "spend more time with our family and our Christian companions". The fourth benefit is "experiencing the true joy of giving", as shown in Acts 20:35 ("I have exhibited to YOU in all things that by thus laboring YOU must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, 'There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving'"). Finally, the fifth benefit is "abounding in hope and having inner peace", since "Jesus will soon undo all the damage caused by Satan the Devil". Despite having all these benefits, we should avoid becoming overconfident. Citing 1 Corinthians 10:12 ("Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall"), Br. Strong said that we must beware because sin is such a powerful force; even many of the heroes of faith were vulnerable. Needless to say, there came yet another reference to 1 Peter 5:8 to finish up that talk.

The second talk in the symposium, "Avoid Time-Consuming Distractions", delivered by a Witness whose name I doubt I can spell properly. Br. Gempar - so I'll try calling him - began by noting that 80% of traffic accidents result from what are so-called "minor distractions". We face insidious distraction designed by Satan himself to lure us away from God; the same tactics used in the first century are active today as well. Even mundane things of life can be a very real threat to our spirituality. First Corinthians 7:31 ("And those making use of the world as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing") shows that we mustn't let "poor use of the world" be the focus of our lives, and Br. Gempar used verse 35 ("But I am saying this for YOUR personal advantage, not that I may cast a noose upon YOU, but to move you to that which is becoming and that which means constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction") to exhort us to a constant focus on the Lord. There followed an interview with another of Jehovah's Witnesses about the rules he sets for his family. He regularly checks his children's e-mail accounts to make sure that they aren't using them for more than what's essential; he forbids them to text message; they only watch TV for select shows determined ahead of time; Internet use is carefully monitored, and they refuse to use time-wasting social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace; and the kids only get to play video games a little bit after they've prepared for meetings and done their homework. He said that while he trusts his kids, he distrusts the world, and that you just can't "leave [children] on their own to make decisions". After that interview, Br. Gempar said that another example of a distraction is trying to maintain a standard of living that we've already attained; if our income decreases, Luke 21:34 ("But pay attention to yourselves that YOUR hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon YOU") shows that we must allow our standard of living to ebb equally. We should be hesitant to seek extra hours at work, because this is a distraction from our important mission. He next interviewed a couple of female Witnesses, the first of whom had quit her full-time employment of four years as pressure mounted on her to compromise her meeting attendance, and the latter of whom stopped working after the company she'd worked for was sold and she was put out of a job. She cited Malachi 3:10 ("'Bring all the tenth parts into the storehouse, that there may come to be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this respect,' Jehovah of armies has said, 'whether I shall not open to YOU people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon YOU a blessing until there is no more want'"). Commenting on this after the interview, Br. Gempar said that they had seen the "necessity to simplify their lifestyles so they could be zealous in Kingdom activities". He turned to Hebrews 9:14 ("How much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to [the] living God?") for a discussion of "dead works", which - while not wrong in themselves - "don't produce any spiritual benefits" but instead can be just another escape from reality. As for uncontrollable distractions, such as health issues or injustice outside the congregation - or "even inside the congregation" - we must press on and realize that God's Kingdom will be the "only permanent solution to mankind's ills". Distractions, he said, can be divided into three categories: visual, cognitive, or manual. To resist these, the answer is to stick to a "consistent schedule of personal study and family worship". Finally, citing the ever-popular 1 Corinthians 15:58 again, he urged the audience to keep busy with meetings and ministry in order to avoid manual distractions.

The symposium's third talk ("Protect Yourself Against Erosion of Your Spirituality") was delivered by Ehud, an engaging speaker from the local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Needless to say, with his good voice and keen wit, he always delivers one of the better talks at these sorts of things. Ehud started out by noting that while computer-animation rats like Stuart Little and Ratatouille are cute, real rats are nasty, disgusting creatures, and definitely not cute. "Satan the Rat," he said, "is out to destroy our spirituality by subtle distractions." He pointed out that the words "erode" and "rodent" come from a common etymological root, and that a rodent will, by gnawing, "slowly consume the object of its desire". He asked the audience whether our "spiritual footing [is] subject to erosion", and gave some telltale signs, such as a loss of desire to study the Bible and a loss of a sense of urgency. "We live in, arguably, the most affluent nation on this earth", but are we jealous of "the so-called good life"? Ehud said that the impact of the entertainment industry has been to effectively idolize Sodom and Gomorrah, and that even the news media focuses disproportionately on sex and violence these days. This, he said, is no more morally acceptable than it is in the film industry. Citing Isaiah 5:20 ("Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good, those who are putting darkness for light and light for darkness, those who are putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!"), he urged not to let our moral faculties be eroded. Asking, "Is your congregation perfect?", the natural answer was, "Not yet." So, then, beware having negative feelings about situations in the congregation, because "do you have all the facts? Probably not." These days, Christians are "victimized by treacherous apostasy", as in the case of Judas recorded in Luke 22:3-6 ("But Satan entered into Judas, the one called Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve; and he went off and talked with the chief priests and [temple] captains about the effective way to betray him to them. Well, they rejoiced and agreed to give him silver money. So he consented, and he began to seek a good opportunity to betray him to them without a crowd around"). Negativity crumbled Judas' spiritual foundation. Other dangers include bad associations, unwholesome entertainment, and the abuse of alcohol. Ehud paused to allow for a mini-scene featuring a family on a couch watching TV and asking why they're bothering to watch such filth; they expressed a sense of shame over having missed their circuit overseer's visit because of a scheduled vacation, and they offer some musings on the "materialism" that leads them to miss meetings for the sake of overtime. When that was done, Ehud resumed by saying that just as soil on a slope is held in place by deep-rooted plants, so too our spiritual roots must run deep. There is "nothing cute or cuddly about Satan the Rat", and so he exhorted: "Stand firm; take courage. Jehovah our God can protect us."

The concluding talk of the symposium, "Fight to Counteract Permissiveness", was delivered by Br. Maury, who began by noting that "mankind is under assault by epidemics", and spiritual sickness is even more prevalent. Its key symptom, he said, is permissiveness/tolerance. This attitude leads to lawless conduct, as shown in Galatians 6:7-8 ("Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit"). Numbers 25 shows that some twenty-four thousand "die at Jehovah's own hand" after committing fornication and idolatry. God is not permissive, but Satan undermines faith with permissiveness and leads the world astray from belief in moral truth. This sets the stage for a little scene of two elders discussing how to help their congregation avoid permissiveness. They mention among various evils alcohol, social networking websites, and "Internet pornography". Permissive thinking was used by Satan in the Garden of Eden, they say, and they cite several passages, including Isaiah 5:20 (again) and 1 Kings 11:3-4 ("And he came to have seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives gradually inclined his heart. And it came about in the time of Solomon's growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father"), where Solomon ignores Jehovah's counsel and as a result his wives "gradually plied his heart to serve other gods". There's a danger in having sympathy with those who indulge in these things; rather, following 1 Corinthians 10:31, we ought to "do all things for God's glory". Resuming, Br. Maury asked, "How do you view those who have no interest in serving God?" The answer was that one can't associate with them and not be affected adversely (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12). Then came an interview with a 17-year-old JW girl who said that at school she was pressure to date but resisted because "dating right now was just not what I had as my goal right now". There were some references to the second chapter of the JW publication Young People Ask, as well as Galatians 6:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:21 ("YOU cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; YOU cannot be partaking of 'the table of Jehovah' and the table of demons"), and it was noted that other kids at her school endured "emotional pain and immorality" because they didn't follow the obviously righteous course that she did. When Br. Maury resumed his monologue, he accused modern entertainment of being filled with "demonic propaganda" and asked the audience whether we were tempted to view or hear programs that accept things that God hates. Asking what restrictions our families place on television and Internet use, he cited Romans 13:11-14 ("[Do] this, too, because YOU people know the season, that it is already the hour for YOU to awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers. The night is well along; the day has drawn near. Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light. As in the daytime let us walk decently, not in revelries and drunken bouts, not in illicit intercourse and loose conduct, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh") and Ephesians 6:11-13 ("Put on the complete suit of armor from God that YOU may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil; because we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places. On this account take up the complete suit of armor from God, that YOU may be able to resist in the wicked day and, after YOU have done all things thoroughly, to stand firm"), saying that "permissiveness is a 'deficiency of firmness'", referencing the dictionary. Making four points in summary of the symposium, he urged the audience to (1) be on the lookout for dangers to their spirituality, (2) avoid time-consuming distractions, (3) protect against erosion of their faith, and (4) "fight to counteract this world's permissive spirit". After citing Romans 1:27 ("And likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error"), he ended the symposium by exhorting his hearers to be "determined to be spiritually vigilant".

After song #21 ("Happy, the Merciful!", from Matthew 5:7) and some announcements that included a quote from Romans 1:12 ("Or, rather, that there may be an interchange of encouragement among YOU, by each one through the other's faith, both YOURS and mine") and a guilt-trip to donate money - you know, the sort of guilt-trip that Jehovah's Witnesses pride themselves on never using - it was time for the circuit overseer, 'Nahath', to deliver yet another talk, this one titled "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ". Nahath started out by saying that uniforms are required in some contexts, like certain jobs or schools; in some cases, it's even illegal to wear a certain uniform when you're not part of the group in question (e.g., impersonating a police officer). But Jehovah's Witnesses, too, have a uniform, and their uniform, Nahath said, is none other than Jesus Christ. The relevant passage of Scripture, of course, was Romans 13:14, cited previously. As Nahath explained, "we strive to imitate the qualities and actions of our Lord Jesus", and hence must wear this uniform at all times. Citing Romans 13:11-13 he noted the urgency of wearing this Christian uniform. Actions are evidence of our genuineness, and so the final judgment will depend to a large extent on our "fine works". We are to be mannerly like Jesus. Galatians 3:27 ("For all of YOU who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ") shows that we're to be identified with Christ by wearing this uniform, and one issue of the Watchtower was quoted as saying that this is the "work of a lifetime". Imitating Jesus' example and disposition requires knowing the manner of his thinking and imitating his "work ethic in spiritual things". Secular goods must not be put first, and nor are Jehovah's Witnesses to pick and choose what they want to follow, the way that many "nominal Christians" do. "Satan", however, "is always waging war with Christians" to prevent them from putting on the Lord Jesus, because this uniform includes us in an organization that will protect us through the great tribulation. Thus, we must not remove the uniform, not even when faced with persecution or temptation; we need to follow the example of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:18-21 ("Let house servants be in subjection to [their] owners with all [due] fear, not only to the good and reasonable, but also to those hard to please. For if someone, because of conscience toward God, bears up under grievous things and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing. For what merit is there in it if, when YOU are sinning and being slapped, YOU endure it? But if, when YOU are doing good and YOU suffer, YOU endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God"). We're to bear up when a friend in the congregation offends us, and "follow Jesus' footsteps closely". Nahath had us imagine trying to follow perfectly in somebody's set of footprints on the beach. It'd be difficult because of the distinctive ways of walking that people have. To follow perfectly in someone's footsteps, you need to conform your way of walking to theirs, as we must to Christ's. Rather than give in to daily distractions, we're to focus on the footsteps and keep the proper pace--in other words, don't "run ahead of the faithful and discreet slave", and don't "lag behind their directions", as in the case of recent alterations in JW meeting structure. (Notice how Jesus just got switched out for the Governing Body, which acts as the visible representative of the 'faithful and discreet slave class', by the way.) In other words, "keep pace with Jehovah's organization". We need to develop an ear for true and direct counsel and then apply it. Elders and pioneers should have some share in the Sunday door-to-door service, which Jehovah's Witnesses have been doing since 1927. This is a much better use of time than, e.g., lunch; someone who does publishing work with their spare time is being much more Christ-like than someone who partakes of things like food instead; Nahath cited Psalm 119:60 ("I hurried up, and I did not delay to keep your commandments").

Nahath went on to say that the "whole family needs to fight" against intruders into their home, these intruders being Satan and the world. We're to "be in fighting mode" (cf. Jude 3 - "Beloved ones, though I was making every effort to write YOU about the salvation we hold in common, I found it necessary to write YOU to exhort YOU to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones"). Referencing 1 Peter 4:1 ("Therefore since Christ suffered in the flesh, YOU too arm yourselves with the same mental disposition; because the person that has suffered in the flesh has desisted from sins"), Nahath said that there is "no room for lukewarm imitation of Jesus' manner of thinking". Next was a brief interview with a JW family, who take "full advantage of all of the theocratic provisions made available through his organization". They rely on the Father through "the power of prayer". (Yet another case of the JWs being affected by Christian-ese. Interesting.) The world has nothing to offer for the children of this family, and the whole family strives to participate in and comment at meetings, and to prepare for them. This ending the interview, Nahath turned to John 13:15 ("For I set the pattern for YOU, that, just as I did to YOU, YOU should also do") and urged us to "let our works speak for themselves". Elders and ministerial servants are in congregations as servants, not lords, which Nahath illustrated with reference to Luke 17:10 ("So YOU, also, when YOU have done all things assigned to YOU, say, 'We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done'"). This, he summed up in one word: "love". "Love will be our uniform, as it were". He referenced John 14:31 ("But, in order for the world to know that I love the Father, even as the Father has given me commandment [to do], so I am doing. Get up, let us go from here") and 15:9-10 ("Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved YOU, remain in my love. If YOU observe my commandments, YOU will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love"), saying that "Jehovah loves the Son because of his implicit obedience". Indeed, "Christ died on a torture stake" to show his pure love, and so we too must "practice genuine love".

That led the way for the final talk, "What Characterizes a Spiritual Person?", delivered by Ezbon. Noting that illness has been prevalent in recent years and that we recognize symptoms and fight it, he queried, "What about spiritual illness?" Nothing gets to the heart without going through the mind. Noting that the sick are advised to drink lots of fluid, he advised the hearers to drink the waters of life--namely, God's Word. There was a reference to the 15 September 2008 issue of The Watchtower, which counseled to keep a clean mind in order to receive a clean spirit. First Corinthians 2:13 talks of spiritual matters and spiritual words. Ezbon commented on the next verse that the "physical man does not examine all things", just his area of interest, which is thoroughly non-spiritual. The verse after that, however, shows that the spiritual man examines all things. Ezbon then used the image of a person stuck in traffic on the interstate, trying to decide whether to remain in line or try to exit; but, seeing a traffic helicopter above, he turns to the radio station and finds a solution--"wisdom from above, humanly speaking".

At this point, Ezbon began to discuss the characteristics of spiritual and non-spiritual persons. A spiritual person will, first of all, have a "simple eye". Ezbon told the story of two pioneers in different states being offered lucrative jobs. One of them turned down the offer and instead remained in the full-time ministry. The other, however, accepted the offer and spent several years focused on their career and promotions before finally regaining their senses and taking a demotion in order to devote more time to ministry. Citing 1 Corinthians 7:31, Ezbon explained that this kosmos is "the world-system, humanity", and that Jehovah's Witnesses go in, not to love it, but solely out of necessity. First John 2:15-17 ("Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world--the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one's means of life--does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever") shows that this kosmos is passing away; however, Jehovah's Witnesses are permitted to use technology for Jehovah's goals, as with the giant printing presses used by the Society to more effectively distribute their message. Jehovah's Witnesses use the world only to an extent; Ezbon, stressing the value of having God's Kingdom as one's chief priority, asked the audience, "Could you simplify your life?" There is, after all, a time to throw away (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:6). According to the September 2009 issue of Awake!, in 2008 today's teenagers spent an average of 6.5 hours per day in "electronic isolation", whereas in 2009 this had already leapt to 8 hours per day. So, Ezbon asked, "Are we preoccupied with 'things'?" Some people fall for "a job that effectively ends their service to Jehovah", but if this entire world isn't worth that cost, how much less a single job? He told a few stories to illustrate, including one of a JW truck driver who refused jobs that would interfere with meeting times, and who then was offered a job that didn't and would also pay more than all the others put together.

Ezbon spoke for a while about the misuse of time, noting that rather than waste it on ungodly entertainment, "spiritual people are generous of their time and their assets". After quoting Proverbs 21:17 ("He that is loving merriment will be an individual in want; he that is loving wine and oil will not gain riches"), Ezbon asserted that the root of the word "amusement" is "a-muse", that is, "not thinking". Rather than be "lovers of pleasures" (cf. 2 Timothy 3:4), we should balance our time and be "absorbed in spiritual matters" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2; Romans 5). People who do this are true "self-starters" and don't let their minds drift at meetings. In Revelation 3:17 ("Because you say: 'I am rich and have acquired riches and do not need anything at all,' but you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked"), Jesus blasted even the anointed Christians at Laodicea, and so we mustn't ignore warning signs. Citing Proverbs 4:14 ("Into the path of the wicked ones do not enter, and do not walk straight on into the way of the bad ones") and Ecclesiastes 7:8 ("Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning. Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit"), he urged the audience to always look at both the consequences of our actions as well as at biblical principles that should guide our actions. He brought up "sexting" as a recent problem, and warned the audience that if they should do such things, "dirty-minded demons" are watching them, and they shouldn't expose themselves to that. He then noted some of the consequences of wrongdoing: (1) facing a judicial committee, (2) bringing anguish to one's family, (3) the shock to one's peers in the congregation service meeting, (4) disappointment to one's friends, and finally (5) shame in the sight of Jehovah, Christ, and the angels. Ezbon also said that "some, being well-meaning, have associated with disfellowshipped relatives", but faithful Jehovah's Witnesses must keep such contact to an absolute minimum, being loyal to God instead; after all, Ezbon remarked, 1 Corinthians 5:11 ("But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man") offers no exception in the case of family relationships. Many disfellowshipped persons seek to return because their families stick to their guns, as it were, while if they get to retain that degree of family contact, there's less of a social incentive to return to the true faith. So, he told the audience, if you get disfellowshipped, don't call to socialize until you're reinstated.

The next exhortation he had was to respectfully apply counsel. Counsel is not to be viewed the same way as criticism, but should be accepted humbly; if one responds to light counsel, that averts the need for more heavy-handed counsel later. (So, in other words, do what you're told, or there'll be consequences.) He cited Psalm 141:5 ("Should the righteous one strike me, it would be a loving-kindness; and should he reprove me, it would be oil upon the head, which my head would not want to refuse. For still there would be even my prayer during their calamities") as well as Mark 10:21 ("Jesus looked upon him and felt love for him and said to him: 'One thing is missing about you: Go, sell what things you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower'"), noting how Jesus offered counsel out of love. The elders of today's congregations are imperfect, but Jehovah knows all of their faults and appoints them anyway, so the proper approach is to look at the counsel given rather than the counselor; as Ezbon quipped, "After all, who did Jehovah use as a counselor for Balaam?" (That got quite a few laughs from the crowd; I'll have to remember that line.)

Then came yet another reminder to be diligent in the door-to-door ministry. The audience was told to focus especially on afternoons, weekends, and holidays, because people are more likely to be home. They should also persist in trying to contact those who aren't at home on initial visits. Joy in the ministry should be based on obedience rather than results, because a good work is being done "regardless of people's apathy". When it comes to irritation in the local congregation, however, the right course of action is to respond with sincere love. After all, in a courtroom setting, witnesses and judges have different roles, and the Scriptures never tell anyone to be "Jehovah's Judges"! Finally, Ezbon turned his attention to the inevitable subject: having a genuine sense of urgency, since Jehovah's Witnesses must "realize that we're living at the end". Hearkening back to the 2009 district convention, there's a need to be vigilant and alert (cf. Matthew 24:42-44 - "Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming. But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. On this account YOU too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that YOU do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming"). He asked, "Are we eagerly expectating [sic] a change?" One shouldn't buy into Satan's lie that this system will continue much longer. Revelation 22:20 ("He that bears witness of these things says, 'Yes; I am coming quickly.' 'Amen! Come, Lord Jesus'") shows that "great expectation" we might have in "these pre-Armageddon days", and on that note he ended.

All 1,149 in attendance in the afternoon session - less than the morning, oddly enough - rose to sing song #50, "The Divine Pattern of Love", based on 1 John 4:19 ("As for us, we love, because he first loved us"), and then joined in a prayer led by Nahath. When all was said and done, I knew I'd be there for quite some time, since Uriah, Shem, and Atarah were all working in the coatroom. So I milled around for a while, met a few folks, did some reading, and ended up chatting with one Witness on a bench near the baptismal pool about religion; he pontificated for a bit about how others misinterpret and twist the obvious meaning of Jesus' words about Gehenna, because they want to create a hell of fiery torment out of the plainly visible reality of the Valley of Hinnom. After he left, I spent some more time reading Let God Be True before it was finally time to depart. I knew I'd need to get some rest before another day of the assembly.

1 comment:

  1. I do hope that you enjoys the assemply